26 February 2007

In my mind, I’m gone to Carolina.

There’s nothing I could possibly say about the iconic James Taylor that hasn’t already been said. Over the last 40 years he has filled the airwaves with songs about addiction, love, loss, travels and according to him songs he’s not even sure of their meaning. I know this because for my Christmas present Abby had gotten us tickets to see him at The Wilshire Theatre. It was a no brainer since I’ve been a fan ever since I can remember but had never managed to see him live.

Like all the greats, no matter where you are sitting, you are happy to be in the room. Luckily for us the Theatre only seats about 4000 people so even though we were in the ‘we’re lucky to have gotten seats’ section, it was a very cool show. Yes, he played his greatest hits – “Fire and Rain”, “You’ve Got A Friend”, “Carolina In My Mind”, “Sweet Baby James”, “Shower The People” and many others. But what made this show different was that it was a basic, stripped down set with him, his guitar, and a piano player that was reminiscent of Nanci Griffith’s live CD One Fair Summer Evening - with one major difference - there was a video screen and a ginormous ‘drum machine’ that looked that a huge wooden foot that had to be wheeled on stage by 2 big guys.

You go into the evening thinking you know all about these songs and hoping that you will hear your favourite tune (which I did). What you don’t expect is the slide/video presentation and the tales to go with the songs. He shed light on some timeworn stories (like how he met Carol King and came to record “You’ve Got A Friend”) and told of his early days meeting The Beatles, traveling in Europe, and who “Karen” is from “Carolina In My Mind”. We saw photos of his parents, family, friends and for a special bonus they had filmed the Tanglewood Choral Group accompanying him on “Shower The People” (no room for improvisation there!). It was a very cool touch and filled the room with a warmth you never could imagine.

I’ve always felt a special connection to JT. I think it’s the New England/North Carolina thing. We’ve both spent our lives between the two very special places and it’s shaped who we are as people and as songwriters. It’s the north/south dichotomy I guess. Whatever it is it’s hard to explain. All I know is that for one night in Los Angeles I was in the same room with him, listening to his stories, laughing at his sense of humour, getting to know him in a way I hadn’t expected and I felt as if in my mind I’d gone to Carolina. It was really amazing!

It was “Oscar Sunday” yesterday and just like a billion or so other people around the world I tuned in. Overall I thought it was one of the more entertaining shows they’ve produced in a long time. Ellen Degeneres did a fabulous job - she was funny, warm, and sweet. What they don’t show you onscreen is what it feels like to live here one Sunday a year.

I live about two miles from the Kodak Theatre, and less then a mile from two of the hottest post Oscar parties in town (Morton’s and Elton John’s). So around 1.30p yesterday we went on an urban hike and walked down to our favourite cheap sushi place, Sushi Mac ($2.75 a plate), down La Cienega Boulevard and into Beverly Hills.

As soon as we left my apartment you could feel it in the air. There is an energy and a vibe to the atmosphere that you don’t feel any other day of the year. It’s not just the parade of limo’s and town cars that whiz down the boulevards carrying who knows who, it’s a charged, hyper, hyped up sense of being. You can feel it walking down the street – you can feel in the grocery store. I think it’s because in one way or another nearly everyone is connected to The Industry either directly or through a friend. It’s all around you – your neighbours, your acquaintances, your car mechanic. Everyone knows someone here – it’s unavoidable and so there are a ton of parties, and a ton of people out and about. It’s a very cool feeling and when the time comes for me to leave L.A. – whenever that it – I will certainly miss my Oscar Sunday.

Now it’s back to the real world. Hmmmm….maybe I’ll go to Carolina.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday…CHEERS!!!

19 February 2007

Take a look at these crows feet, just look, sitting on the Prettiest Eyes, 60 25th of Decembers, 59 4th of July’s….

The other day I was perusing myspace looking to make ‘friends’ with bands and artists that I like. Now, I’m not fool enough to think that these people a) manage their own myspace page or b) would actually check out my profile and listen to my music only to discover that I’m the songwriter they’ve always been looking for but didn’t know it until now. No, I invite them to be my ‘friend’ because I admire their work and thusly people who do check out my profile can see who I listen to and am influenced by. So it was with great horror that when I searched for The Beautiful South and discovered through their page –www.myspace.com/thebeautifulsouth - that they had broken up. 3 weeks ago. This is truly a heartbreaking loss to the world of music.

I know what you are saying…who the hell are these people? Simply put, they are the best band you’ve never heard of and are undoubtedly the most underrated group of the last 19 years. Formed in England in the late 80’s by former members of The Housemartins, Paul Heaton, and Dave Hemingway and joined by Brianna Corrigan (later replaced by Alison Wheeler), Sean Welch, Dave Stead, and Dave Rotheray their sweet melodies and even sweeter harmonies belie the darker truths beneath their infectious pop tunes. They are hard not to tap your feet to, and Paul Heaton’s songwriting as witnessed in the above referenced Prettiest Eyes, my personal favourite, is clever, original, lacking in clich├ęs and far above that of most pop writers you will ever hear. As he says on their websight: “So many pop songs are written about 15-20 year olds. We've never really targeted them, or newly weds. We write about people who've lived together most of their lives.”

Like most he tells stories of heartache, loss and love but he does it from a perspective that is distant so as not to be too emotional, yet somehow intimate enough so you understand exactly what he’s getting at. “The Sound Of North America isn’t Christians quietly praying it’s the sounds of shuffling feet that don’t know where they’re staying…A homeless Greta Garbo moves across the street, the moonlight shining clearly through her skirt, a real life living legend that no one wants to meet and that’s when being Garbo really hurts. Sometimes you feel expensive, sometimes you feel so cheap you can roam the streets of Queen whilst everyone’s asleep, you can act with anybody from the cradle to the crypt but god help the actress who doesn’t know the script…”

I can’t say enough about this band, only that I will truly miss their collective offering to the world and I look forward to any solo projects that may come from these folks. Find them on myspace or www.beautifulsouth.co.uk. But find them before they disappear.

I spent another Saturday morning at the The Vet’s office. No worries – just a check-up on Phineas to see how he’s doing with his treatments and if indeed they are helping him. My awesome Vet, Dr. Rettinger, was pleased with how he seemed so now we await test results and hopefully don’t go back for another 4-6 months. It’s all a part of our new routine and that’s cool. He’s worth it. But it’s funny being in the waiting room with everyone and their pets. It’s this odd ‘daycare’ situation where people wait, mingle and admire each other’s ‘kids’.

It feels like when I’m home and I go pick up my niece, Cate, from daycare and other ‘parents’ are there. The same words are spoken, the same admiring glances, and the same feeling of pride at my ‘offspring’. “How old?”, “Myyy…what a cutie!!”, “Sorry about the saliva I guess he really likes you…”. It’s odd. They’re not my kid in the traditional sense. But still I’m proud of how adorable Phin and Cate are. “Yep, I’m kin” I think glowingly as the comments are passed around. “Yeah, I’ve cleaned up puke, fed them, and changed a diaper or 2”. Ok – I never actually changed Cate’s diaper, but I’ve been around when the diaper was changed and thusly experienced every odor that could occur during that time.

I’ve been spit on, puked on, and most importantly, I’m loved and love them with all my heart. So really I could be in any waiting room in Connecticut, or here in West Hollywood and the feelings are the same. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. It’s a club I’m proud to be a part of, and if I’m lucky one day Cate and Phin will see the crows feet on my eyes.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday…CHEERS!!!

12 February 2007

Is it too much to demand I want a full house and a Rock ‘n Roll Band?

I admit that until Mary Chapin Carpenter made “Passionate Kisses” a hit in 1992 I had barely heard of Lucinda Williams. I guess I wasn’t up really on my country/folk/blues or something – I’m not even sure how to classify her – but she’s a damn fine songwriter with a hell of a gravely voice. Maybe she’s spent too many nights playing music, smoking a pack or two (I imagine) and digging into her Southern soul between recordings.

A Louisiana native who just weeks ago turned 54, she has 9 albums to her credit starting with her first release, Ramblin’, way back in 1979 and leading up to her latest, West, being released tomorrow the 13th. The songs I have been able to sample on her myspace page (myspace.com/lucindawilliams) including the single “Are You Allright?” are true to her form. These are bluesy, folk, catchy, rock-like melodies that dive in and make you feel like it’s 100 degrees outside while you’re driving down a dusty country road in an old Chevy with the windows down and Jack Daniels between your legs. It’s sexy, it’s hot, and she’s the only voice you want to hear.

The thing I like most about her is that she’s hard to categorize. She suits every mood you are in on any given album. She talks about heartbreak as if it were happening THIS INSTANT while she’s singing. She talks about love as if it’s something she’s never known, though she recently got engaged. There are paradoxes that make sense and absolute truths that are spot on yet don’t always add up. Every listening brings something new and honest to the forefront. She plays her heart out and embodies Country BlueGrass and Blues…with rock thrown in for good measure – just to make sure you are on your toes and paying attention. And you should.

It was a cool week for me. Thanks to my friend from elementary school, Christian Knapp (myspace.com/christianfknapp), I got the bass player I have been dreaming about since the genesis of this EP. After searching and asking everyone I know in LA if they know of anyone who can play, the first question always being “how much can you pay?” as opposed to ‘what kind of music do you play?’, it took a hometown, East Coast friend to come through.

Dan Tribman showed up on my doorstep Saturday afternoon after a week of his ongoing firefighter training to work his magic - and he did it because he enjoys playing music (I can only hope he enjoys playing mine) not because I had cash in my hands. That is a true musician. You show up because you are happy to play your instrument and maybe learn a thing or two. You do it because you love music. He’s a great guy and he’s coming back on Thursday to finish up the other songs, hang out, jam, talk and put the final notes to the EP, now officially called NUMB. I’d like to dedicate this week’s offering to Christian and Dan - for their support, their ideas and for just being great musicians. While I don’t have a Rock n’ Roll Band I have these guys and that’s wicked COOL!!

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday….CHEERS!!!

PS: Congrats to the Dixie Chicks for their 5 Grammy’s!! You totally deserve the kudos and so does the Academy for recognizing you!!!

05 February 2007

If I lay here, if I just lay here would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Speaking of Snow Patrol (see last week)…”Forget what we’re told, before we get too old, show me a garden that’s bursting into life…all that I am all that I ever was is here in your perfect eyes, they’re all I can see…”. These lines are from their second album, Eyes Open, released in December 2005. I think it’s rare for a Major Label Sophmore album to be as good as the Freshman debut. This is certainly not the case here. The music on this CD is as intense and catchy as their debut, Final Straw (Polydor, 2003). While the overall sound remains the same - pianos, guitars, synthesizers, drums, the songs loose nothing in the way of mystery, depth, and romanticism.

The band, formed in Dundee, Scotland in 1994, has changed line-ups slightly over the years, but the main characters remain the same. While the founding members are from Northern Ireland, I’d like to think that my theory about Scotland breeding really cool, moody and layered music still applies. Like their predecessors, Del Amitri, these guys must be effected by the gloomy weather and bone-chilling rains that I have heard so much about from my Scottish friend, Suzanne. What else do you do on a rainy day in an industrial city but sit around your flat making great music?

I think what’s surprising is that it took them so long to reach such worldwide success. Their first two albums (1997 and 1998) were put on labels no one in America has ever heard of, Electric Honey and Jeepster, which thusly no doubt kept them on the other side of the pond. But I don’t see this as a bad thing necessarily – I think they were just keeping them to themselves, holding out until they were really ready to make the break. Like fine wine you leave in your cellar until that perfect moment this band has certainly been worth the wait!

Like so many millions of people around this troubled world I spent yesterday in front of the TV watching the Super Bowl. I, like my father, was rooting for his hometown team, Da Bears! I was excited to no end at the possibility of a Chicago team bring it home for the fans since the Cubbies blew it in World Series a few years ago. Sadly, I was disappointed as poor Rex Grossman made some fatal Rookie errors and, pardon the pun, threw the game away. Poor kid, though no doubt next year he will kick some butt, yesterday was an ass whooping, lesson learning day no Bears fan will ever forget.

But Da Bears loosing wasn’t the most disappointing moment of the day, there were several, actually, and it started with the Worlds Most Boring Commercials! All the hype about the game in the preceding weeks, and the infamous commercials that are to air led to a real let down. To say nothing of seeing Katie Couric’s face every break (UGH) promoting a ‘newer, softer, nighty night snews’ the other commercials were lacking in anything interesting, or funny. No groundbreaking happened yesterday just two minutes to go to the bathroom and forget the lameness in between downs. If it weren’t for Letterman and Oprah the whole day of commercials would have been a complete wash!

The game ends, the trophy is presented to the owner of The deserving Colts and basically the first words out of his mouth had to do with GOD. Yep. GOD. I thought I was watching Kurt Warner all over again. Ok – I can live with that, sort of, but then Tony Dungy gets up and talks about GOD and how GOD is the reason they won, and how GOD gave them the will to persevere and overcome the initial deficit they faced in the first half blady blady blah….No mention of his family, or the team having anything to do with the win. JUST GOD. The message was: if you pray hard enough GOD will grant you the Super Bowl. I guess Lovie Smith, also GOD fearing, as mentioned by Tony Dungy, didn’t pray hard enough. Or was it PLAY? I’m so confused at this point I don’t even know what to do. I mean, did you see GOD at the game? Was he/she in the players box and the camera person missed the shot? If GOD was there – does it mean that he/she was rooting for The Colts? Why not Da Bears? Does GOD really care that much about football to favour ANY team? Does GOD care about football to begin with? I’m guessing – NO! I’m thinking The Colts won because they PLAYed (not prayed) the better game.

In any case, it was a good match-up. The rain added an element that made it feel like real football, and not some perfectly staged ‘studio controlled’ event like past years. Prince was awesome, the players played their hearts out, and overall it was a great way to just forget the world - for awhile.

Thanks for tuning it…Until next Monday….CHEERS!!!